The Hit Parade is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Each week, we'll assess Fantasy-relevant hitters based on streaks, matchups, injuries and lineup changes and divide them into five categories: "no-brainers," "advisable starts," "shaky starts," "strictly AL/NL-only" and "don't bother."
These designations are designed to rate each player's Fantasy value for the current week only and have no bearing on his value for the season as a whole.
Any player dealing with injury will have the injury listed in parentheses after his name. His injury will most definitely influence his category designation for the week.
Any players not appearing on these lists are presumed to be at or below "don't bother" status and are obvious sits in Fantasy.
This information has been updated through Monday, April 2.
Coming off injury-plagued seasons, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey were both considered risky picks on Draft Day, but neither has given any indication this spring that he'll be less than full-go right out of the gate. If you drafted either to be your starter in Fantasy, you have no reason to back down now.
The catcher position is typically one where two players split time, but most teams still have a clear starter and a clear backup. That isn't the case for the Rockies, Reds, Astros or White Sox, though, which is why each of those teams has two players listed here. Most likely, a favorite will emerge for each team in the weeks ahead, but in the meantime, each player takes a hit in these rankings.
Sleeper for Fantasy Week 1: Wilson Ramos, Nationals
With a .191 batting average, Ramos hasn't exactly validated his sleeper appeal this spring, but he's still a high-upside player and will be facing a relatively weak top three in Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. If you drafted him to be your starter, don't back down from him now.
Bust for Fantasy Week 1: Jesus Montero, Mariners
Obviously, if you already started Montero for the two games in Japan, you can't switch from him now. But if you're setting your lineup for the first time on Wednesday, you'd be settling for only two games from him when you could get three or four from most other catchers. Plus, he'll be facing Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon again after doing almost nothing against them the first time around.
No-brainers: Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Miguel Montero, Alex Avila, Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey
Advisable starts: Yadier Molina, Russell Martin, J.P. Arencibia, Geovany Soto, Wilson Ramos
Shaky starts: Jesus Montero, Kurt Suzuki, Devin Mesoraco, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Doumit, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Carlos Ruiz, Chris Iannetta, John Buck, A.J. Pierzynski, Nick Hundley, Ramon Hernandez
Strictly AL/NL-only: Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Wilin Rosario, Yorvit Torrealba, Josh Thole, Josh Donaldson, Ryan Hanigan, Jason Castro, Chris Snyder
Don't bother: Salvador Perez (knee), Tyler Flowers
|1.||Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals||15|
|2.||Mike Aviles, SS, Red Sox||15|
|3.||Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers||14|
|4.||Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics||13|
|5.||Cody Ross, OF, Red Sox||13|
|6.||Chris Parmelee, 1B, Twins||9|
|7.||Kendrys Morales, 1B, Angels||8|
|8.||Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers||8|
|9.||Lucas Duda, OF, Mets||7|
|10.||Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-Backs||7|
Though consensus No. 1 overall pick Miguel Cabrera likely won't suffer any ill effects from his fractured orbital bone, the outlook isn't quite as rosy for Ike Davis or Adam Lind. Neither is expected to miss any time -- at least not now -- but both are dealing with nagging issues that could limit their numbers. Adam Lind has battled tightness in his back this spring, which is more or less the same injury that caused him to hit .197 in the second half last year. Ike Davis is playing with valley fever, which is the same illness that wrecked Conor Jackson's career back in 2009. That's not to say either player is destined to flop, but neither did much to relieve Fantasy owners' concerns this spring. You'll want to see some production from them before you activate them in mixed leagues.
Sleeper for Fantasy Week 1: Kendrys Morales, Angels
His spring got off to a late start, but in only two weeks, Morales has proven he's more than ready to face major-league pitching after missing most of the last two seasons with an ankle fracture, batting .423 with two home runs. His matchups against the Royals rotation to begin the season should help him make a strong statement about his Comeback Player of the Year candidacy.
Bust for Fantasy Week 1: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt looked overmatched at times during his stint in the majors last season, and he didn't exactly rewrite the record books this spring. He'll have his moments in Fantasy, but you should shy away from him against Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain to begin the season.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera (head), Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, Paul Konerko, Eric Hosmer, Lance Berkman, Michael Young, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli
Advisable starts: Freddie Freeman, Michael Cuddyer (hand), Justin Morneau, Mark Reynolds, Kendrys Morales, Lucas Duda
Shaky starts: Edwin Encarnacion, Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, Carlos Lee, Adam Dunn, Adam Lind, Carlos Pena, Paul Goldschmidt, Daniel Murphy, Todd Helton
Strictly AL/NL-only: Mark Trumbo, James Loney, Justin Smoak, Chris Parmelee, Mitch Moreland, Chris Davis, Adam LaRoche (foot), Ty Wigginton, Aubrey Huff, Garrett Jones, Casey Kotchman, Juan Rivera, Jesus Guzman
Don't bother: Michael Morse (lat), Ryan Howard (Achilles), Brandon Belt, Mike Carp (shoulder)
Second base has only 11 players listed in the first two categories, which means in a 12-team league, some unfortunate Fantasy owner will have to bank on one of the "shaky starts". It's just the nature of the position -- at least in a week when both Jemile Weeks and Neil Walker have unfavorable matchups. And though you'll find some sleepers in the lower categories, one preseason sleeper candidate, Tyler Greene, won't be of much help to Fantasy owners until he overtakes Daniel Descalso for the clear majority of the at-bats in St. Louis. As a platoon player, he's not worth the trouble.
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Sleeper for Fantasy Week 1: Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays
The Indians' top three of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin isn't the most intimidating in the league, and because all three are righties, a left-handed hitter like Johnson should be able to take advantage. With Jose Bautista batting one or two spots behind him, the .270 batting average he compiled with the Blue Jays late last season was most likely legit.
Bust for Fantasy Week 1: Neil Walker, Pirates
Because he's not a significant contributor of either home runs or steals, Walker is probably overrated to begin with. Considering his .564 OPS this spring, his season-opening matchups against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley might just be reason enough to look into other options for Week 1.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Brandon Phillips
Advisable starts: Howard Kendrick, Dustin Ackley, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson
Shaky starts: Jemile Weeks, Neil Walker, Danny Espinosa, Jason Kipnis, Aaron Hill, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles, Gordon Beckham, Omar Infante
Strictly AL/NL-only: Jose Altuve, Sean Rodriguez, Darwin Barney, Alexi Casilla (knee), Jamey Carroll
Don't bother: Tyler Greene, Ruben Tejada, Orlando Hudson (hip), Chase Utley (knee), Brian Roberts (concussion), Maicer Izturis, Robert Andino, Mark Ellis
David Wright has a torn abdominal muscle, which is the same injury that Ryan Zimmerman had surgically repaired last season, costing him 60 games. But apparently, Wright is going all tough-guy and saying he can play through it. Well, maybe he can -- he has so far -- but after doing virtually nothing in his week of spring action, he has yet to prove he can play effectively with the injury. That's at least reason enough to be wary of him even if you can't (in most cases) find a suitable alternative for him. Alberto Callaspo is in the "don't bother" category for now simply because we don't yet know how much Mark Trumbo will cut into his at-bats. If Callaspo ends up being more or less an everyday player, he'll at least have some AL-only value.
Sleeper for Fantasy Week 1: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
Encarnacion has followed up his .291 batting average, 11 homers and .887 OPS in the second half last year by batting .306 with four homers and a .924 OPS this spring. Those aren't inflated Cactus League stats either. Against a relatively weak top three of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin, he might be surprisingly productive this week.
Bust for Fantasy Week 1: Mike Moustakas, Royals
Though Moustakas could be in line for a breakout in his sophomore season, he has a history of slow starts -- one that includes his first stint in the majors last year. With Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana on tap this week, history seems likely to repeat itself.
No-brainers: Jose Bautista (groin), Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman, Brett Lawrie, Pablo Sandoval, Michael Young, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Aramis Ramirez, Emilio Bonifacio
Advisable starts: David Wright, Martin Prado, Mark Reynolds, Ryan Roberts, David Freese, Edwin Encarnacion
Shaky starts: Mike Moustakas, Daniel Murphy, Mat Gamel, Chase Headley, Mike Aviles, Danny Valencia
Strictly AL/NL-only: Jed Lowrie (thumb), Placido Polanco, Chris Davis, Ian Stewart, Pedro Alvarez, Sean Rodriguez, Eduardo Nunez, Ty Wigginton, Brent Morel, Chone Figgins, Kyle Seager
Don't bother: Scott Rolen, Chris Johnson, Juan Uribe, Alberto Callaspo, Wilson Betemit, Juan Francisco, Chipper Jones (knee)
Troy Tulowitzki may have a red cross next to his name after getting plunked on the elbow by a Ubaldo Jimenez pitch on Sunday, but his status isn't really in doubt. Jed Lowrie, on the other hand, might wind up on the DL with a sprained thumb, making him little more than a desperation play in NL-only leagues this week. J.J. Hardy was looking like an iffy start just a few days ago, but after seeing him hit two home runs in his third game back in the lineup Sunday, you can trust that the cortisone shot he got in his balky right shoulder did the trick.
Sleeper for Fantasy Week 1: Dee Gordon, Dodgers
Gordon might be the hitter whose value has improved the most this spring. He picked up where he left off last September, when he hit .372, and appears poised to become one of the league's most prolific base-stealers. The Dodgers are one of only four teams with four games this week, and though those four games are at PETCO Park, that's not such a detriment for a speedster like him. If he hits the ball into those spacious gaps, he'll be able to run forever.
Bust for Fantasy Week 1: Marco Scutaro, Rockies
Scutaro entered play Tuesday batting .189 (7 for 37) for the spring and admitted at one point that he's had trouble finding his stroke. He's a sleeper mostly because of his run-scoring potential in the heavy-hitting environment of Coors Field, but with the Rockies on the road, that's obviously a moot point this week. You can wait until Scutaro heats up to make him your guy at shortstop.
No-brainers: Troy Tulowitzki (elbow), Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, Jimmy Rollins, Emilio Bonifacio
Advisable starts: Alexei Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Jhonny Peralta, J.J. Hardy, Erick Aybar, Dee Gordon, Yunel Escobar
Shaky starts: Marco Scutaro, Zack Cozart, Ian Desmond, Alcides Escobar, Rafael Furcal
Strictly AL/NL-only: Jed Lowrie (thumb), Cliff Pennington (groin), Sean Rodriguez, Eduardo Nunez, Alex Gonzalez, Alexi Casilla (knee), Jamey Carroll
Don't bother: Tyler Pastornicky, Jason Bartlett, Tyler Greene, Ruben Tejada, Clint Barmes, Willie Bloomquist, Freddy Galvis, Stephen Drew (ankle)
As of Tuesday, Corey Hart, who is working his way back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, had yet to play in an official spring game, but the Brewers have already said he'll be on the opening day roster and, presumably, in the opening day lineup. You wouldn't necessarily be wrong to start him in Fantasy, but considering Friday's season opener will be one of the first times he faces major-league-caliber pitching in 2012, you have to expect some rust. Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison have both gotten limited action this spring because of knee injuries. Stanton seems like the safer bet to avoid the DL and is obviously the safer bet statistically as well. Unless something changes at the last minute, plan to start Stanton this week, but weigh your alternatives for Morrison.
Sleepers for Fantasy Week 1: Dayan Viciedo, White Sox and Lucas Duda, Mets
Viciedo has become kind of a forgotten man with a quiet spring, but he has picked it up recently with homers in back-to-back games and should be able to continue the power surge with three games at Texas. And considering two of the Rangers starters this week are lefties -- Derek Holland and Matt Harrison -- the odds are even better for a right-handed hitter like him. As for Duda, the hype out of Mets camp pretty much speaks for itself at this point. He's looking like an OPS monster in the Lance Berkman mold and gets to try out the new dimensions at Citi Field right away with three games against a Braves rotation full of question marks.
Busts for Fantasy Week 1: Jason Heyward, Braves and Jeff Francoeur, Royals
After a slow start this spring, Heyward's rebuilt swing finally began to pay dividends toward the end of the exhibition season, but considering the Braves have two lefties on tap in their three-game series against the Mets this week, he's likely to get off to a slow start anyway. His OPS was about 177 points lower against lefties than righties last year and is 141 points lower against lefties than righties for his career. Francoeur, meanwhile, had an OPS 172 points lower against righties than lefties last year, and he faces nothing but righties this week. And they just so happen to be the top three pitchers in the Angels' star-studded rotation.
No-brainers: Jose Bautista (groin), Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson (elbow), Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Ben Zobrist, Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Alex Gordon, Michael Bourn, Desmond Jennings, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo
Advisable starts: Giancarlo Stanton (knee), Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier, Nick Markakis, Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Young, Carlos Beltran, Jayson Werth, Adam Jones, Howard Kendrick, Michael Cuddyer (hand), Melky Cabrera, Martin Prado, Drew Stubbs, Nick Swisher, Lucas Duda, Dayan Viciedo
Shaky starts: Corey Hart (knee), Jason Heyward (leg), Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Jeff Francoeur, Logan Morrison (knee), Yoenis Cespedes, Carlos Lee, Delmon Young, Cameron Maybin, Brennan Boesch, Matt Joyce, Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Jose Tabata, Jason Kubel, Dexter Fowler, Coco Crisp, Yonder Alonso, Lorenzo Cain, Angel Pagan, Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rios, Josh Willingham, Peter Bourjos, Alejandro De Aza
Strictly AL/NL-only: Colby Rasmus, John Mayberry, Ryan Raburn, J.D. Martinez, Jason Bay, Eric Thames, Mitch Moreland, Denard Span, Michael Brantley, Alex Presley, Ben Revere, Bobby Abreu, David DeJesus, Jon Jay, Bryan LaHair (back), Ty Wigginton, Nolan Reimold, Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Will Venable, Marlon Byrd, Juan Rivera
Don't bother: Raul Ibanez, Ryan Ludwick, Nyjer Morgan, Josh Reddick, David Murphy, Chris Heisey, Seth Smith, Andres Torres (calf), Luke Scott, Rajai Davis, Garrett Jones, Shelley Duncan, Michael Morse (lat), Carl Crawford (wrist), B.J. Upton (back), Carlos Quentin (knee), Mike Carp (shoulder), Allen Craig (knee), Grady Sizemore (back), Brandon Belt, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout
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